Section: Arts

Pandemic playlists: A guide to social distance listening

Pandemic playlists: A guide to social distance listening

With everyone at home, now is a great time to catch up on music. Lucky for us, Kenyon artists have been busy putting together new tunes to jam to while working through the tedium of end-of-semester assignments. 

 

Pinegrove: Elsewhere 2 and YouTube Live Streams

Evan Stephens Hall ’11 and company, collectively known as Pinegrove, have been working tirelessly over the past month to use music to pull people out of the daily routine of their quarantined lives. Over the past month, Pinegrove has put out hours of music. 

On March 29, the band uploaded to YouTube a two-hour livestream performance by Hall. Listening to it is like reading stream-of-consciousness prose, the winding roads of Hall’s lyrics pulling you out of your own mind. In addition to favorites like “Darkness,” “Aphasia” and “Old Friends,” Hall performed covers of Evanescence, John K. Sampson, Field Medic and more. It’s a joy to listen to, with Hall’s soft spoken interludes reflecting on these strange times. Meanwhile, his trademark shout-singing provided comfort through the emotional release that we all need. 

Nearly a month after this first livestream from quarantine, Hall put himself back in front of the camera on April 22, sporting a new haircut — a rather crusty mohawk. In this hour-long performance, Hall performed more classics like “New Friends,” “Cadmium” and “Intrepid.” He also treated viewers to a few new songs: “Cyclone” and “Flora,” and another work-in-progress song that Hall says is “still in draft phase.” 

“Cyclone” is an especially fitting addition to the soundtrack for staying at home. “Never again, been in my head for a long time,” Hall laments, singing about reconciling the mind with reality. “Get out my head, get out of my mind,” he shouts into the void. 

“Flora,” which he plays directly after “Cyclone,” has a lighter, bouncier rhythm — a nice contrast to the darkness of the previous track, providing a soundtrack to spring blooming around us. 

The best of Pinegrove’s recent releases is Elsewhere 2, an eight-track live album on their Bandcamp page. Pinegrove’s posted description calls the work “a record of the recent past when people could gather together by the hundreds.” 

The album takes the listener across the country, playing live recordings from San Diego, Woodstock, Houston, Austin, Dallas and Denver. Despite the fact that the recordings are pulled from different live performances, the music flows much like a traditional live album. “Spiral,” the one-minute opening track, starts softly and crescendos into the rest of the recording. The final two tracks, “Rings” and “Aphasia,” make you feel like you’re in the middle of a crowded concert venue, as Hall’s vocals are coupled with the crowd singing along with him for the entire final nine minutes of the album. 

The album provides a much-needed escape. As Pinegrove writes in the album description, it provides a brief moment with “the communal I,” a concept that is no better explained than by the sensation of listening to Rings alone in your room while in your mind, you are transported to Denver, singing along with Hall and the rest of the world. 

Listeners who choose to buy the digital album on Bandcamp can name their price, and all proceeds of which will go to the MusicCares COVID-19 Relief Fund.

 

Yoke Lore: #StayHome #WithMe Livestream

Yoke Lore’s spiritualism-inspired pop indie rock is another great remedy for life-at-home. Adrian Galvin ’12, who first broke out onto the scene as Walk the Moon’s drummer, started Yoke Lore in 2016. He has since released four EPs, most recently Meditations in 2019. On April 7, Galvin recorded a live stream, #StayHome #WithMe, where he spent 45 minutes playing a mix of old favorites and new music while also answering questions. 

Yoke Lore’s music is fantastic listening for quarantine times. Each track offers some combination of banjo, drums and electronica. Even better, Yoke Lore has both electronic and acoustic versions of songs like “Goodpain” on Spotify, good for any mood. Galvin studied dance in college and his songs’ percussive qualities compel movement. How better to spend another night alone in your house than to dance around in your bedroom? In live performances, Galvin himself dances around on stage between verses, flailing his arms and legs to the rhythm. 

In Galvin’s latest live recording, he sits cross-legged on the floor of his house, while his gray fluffy dog lies lazy and satisfied on a brown leather couch behind him. In lieu of ample space to dance around in front of his webcam, Galvin instead settles on a rhythmic restless knee as he plays the banjo. 

The recording starts off with “Chin Up,” a performance marred by some technical difficulties. From there, the recording smooths out and Galvin plays some of his older stuff like “Goodpain” and “Beige,” and also some yet-unreleased tracks. Each song carries that same contemplative lyricism over Galvin’s banjo picking. “Goodpain,” which is all about enduring the bad times in order to enjoy the good times, feels particularly meaningful. 

Interspersed between musical acts were question-and-answer sessions, in which Galvin revealed that his favorite song is Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” that he refuses to play his track “Tom Robbins” in the studio and that his biggest musical influences are Bob Dylan, the Backstreet Boys and Modest Mouse. When asked whether he preferred cats or dogs, his answer reflected the meditative but lighthearted lyricism of his songs: “Cats,” he answers, because “cats have this age-old knowledge that goes way beyond humanity and way beyond our temporal sphere of existence.” 

As for upcoming releases, Galvin mentioned that he has been spending most of his free time working on new songs from home (“I have nothing else to do — it’s wonderful”). When all is said and done, hopefully these songs will make their way onto Galvin’s newest EP or, if we are lucky, his first studio album. 

Like Pinegrove, Yoke Lore’s live stream raised money for the MusicCares COVID-19 Relief Fund. 

 

Day Moon: “Veil” 

Day Moon, born at the Horn Gallery in 2018, consists of Alex Inciardi ’21, Molly Walsh ’21 and Maddy Moriarty ’21. After years of treating Kenyonites to their music at Horn concerts and WKCO Fest, Day Moon has released their first single, “Veil,” available for streaming on Spotify and on Bandcamp, where listeners can purchase and download the song with the option to name your price. 

“Veil” pulls talent from across Kenyon’s music scene. The track features Ben Weinman ’21 on lead guitar, is mixed by Jake Zeisel ’19 and is produced by Andrew Perelman ’20. It is a stunning debut track, reflecting the band’s wealth of experience playing live shows, despite the current dearth of recorded tracks.

In a message to the Collegian, the members of Day Moon wrote about their excitement to release the track, citing the important roles played by other members of the Kenyon music scene. “Needless to say, we feel lucky to be releasing anything at all during this time, let alone a track that is the product of so much Kenyon talent,” they wrote. 

While the song had been recorded last semester, finalizing the track in isolation proved challenging, with the band members mixing over the phone with Zeisel. 

The song puts Inciardi’s vocal abilities on full display. Her voice evokes comparison to Sharon Van Etten and the Staves. Inciardi wrote the song the summer before her junior year at Kenyon, and it serves as a reflection on the ways she has changed and grown over those two years. “I knew I wanted the lyrics to talk about Kenyon in some way, to give credit to how being there has helped shape who I am today,” Inciardi wrote. 

Day Moon’s members feel that the song’s release is bittersweet, as they intended to drop their first full album this semester. Unfortunately, most of those tracks are stuck on the WKCO computer’s hard drive. They wrote that there are six more songs where “Veil” came from, which they have plans to retrieve when it is possible for students to collect their belongings from campus. 

In addition to a debut album to look forward to, Day Moon has spent their time at home writing new songs that they can perform and record upon returning to Kenyon. 

“As quarantine has left us with an excess of free-time and angst, songwriting has been a great outlet for cathartic release,” they wrote. 

 

Mangoland: 2-Part Album Coming in May

Mangoland, the Chicago-based band featuring Kenyon’s Vince Lewis ’20, has released a steady stream of singles since 2018. The band, which includes Lewis and some of his high school friends, did some touring last summer and has spent the past few months hard at work on what began as an album but has since outgrown that mold. 

On May 1, Mangoland is going to release the first part of a two-part album. “The album was produced as a group effort of the band, mostly virtually in isolation by sending parts to each other over Google Drive,” Lewis wrote in a message to the Collegian.

In comparison to their earlier work, Lewis said that their new album will be more experimental and electronic, but also more polished. Mangoland’s earlier music combines elements of rock, rap and alternative, with Lewis being one of two guitarists. 

While older songs consist mostly of the talented Owen Finn on vocals, each member of the band provides vocals at some point on the new album, which will have guest features from singer Tess Buckley and rapper Scaz. 

According to Lewis, the new album’s diverse array of sounds means that it will have something for everyone. He expects that they will release the second part of the album in mid-May. In late May, the band plans to unveil a sampling of live music, which he says will be more for those who liked Mangoland’s original style. The band has an ambitious goal of maintaining regular, weekly releases throughout the summer. 

 

Mark Twang: Late May Live Cuts

Mark Twang, a self-described post-country band, is set to release a couple of live cuts and a cover song in late May. This comes after the emergence of the pandemic forced the band’s debut album onto the back burner. 

The band, consisting of Jonah Zitelli ’20, Sam Achtermann ’20, Ethan Bradley ’20 and Eric Schwartz ’21, released the EP Progress Report \\ Demos a year ago and Rearview EP in November 2019. Rearview EP is the more polished of the two and features the songs that Twang would often play at live shows, both those on campus and at off-campus venues throughout the East Coast and the Midwest. 

While awaiting the band’s new releases, Rearview EP’s melancholic but rich sound is perfect stay-at-home listening. The title track, “Rearview,” puts the band’s collective talents and unique sound on full display. The album, mixed by Jake Ziesel ’19, has a layered sound, as Perelman’s voice and Zitelli’s guitar sound as though they are meant to go together, while the drums, banjo and bass give each song a rhythm that begs your foot to tap along. The combination of more alternative-inspired vocals and guitar riffs with the twangy guitar and country-rock bassline groove characterize Twang’s post-country sound. The band’s sound takes clear inspiration from bands like Pinegrove and Wilco while still achieving an original sound.

Eventually, the band hopes to put out a full debut album, but the distance between the members has thrown a wrench into those plans. Zitelli said to the Collegian that the band was fortunate in that they had been recording all of their practices for a while before leaving Kenyon and this, in addition to recordings from shows, gives them material that they can release despite being away from campus. 

Zitelli expects that new music will drop on May 22, give or take a couple of days. As of now, Rearview EP is on Spotify and Bandcamp and Progress Report \\ Demos is on Bandcamp. 

In addition to music’s therapeutic potential, these musicians’ latest works are also a sign of hope. If bands can find creative ways to bring people music despite lacking the spaces to gather, practice, perform and record, then certainly we can all find ways to be there for one another and offer up our own ways to make things a little easier for someone else.

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